An Interview with Marisa Ewing
Stories Through Sound is a blog featuring interviews by industry professionals across the audio and post production fields. This week, we're interviewing Marisa Ewing.
"Marisa Ewing is a sound designer and audio editor based in Chicago, Il. After graduating with two BAs—one in Audio Production and the other in Music with a specialization in Film and Game Sound—Marisa went on to work on podcasts, video games, movies, short films, and museum exhibits. She has a special talent for making sound effects from scratch (foley). These talents have led her to work on films, podcasts, and series including: "Rusty Quill Gaming," "Dark Dice," "Being Seen," and "Powered by Audio."
Additionally, Marisa has a wide array of experience in audio, working as a live sound engineer and serving as the community outreach coordinator for Women in Audio. With Women in Audio, she has arranged appearances of female audio engineers at school fairs and summer camps, where they would teach children about the varying fields in audio engineering. This passion for great audio led her to create Hemlock Creek Productions, where she hopes that anyone can have the opportunity to enhance their project with quality audio production.
Marisa is also a musician, which gives her a good ear for audio editing. For the past 14 years, she has played flute in numerous bands and orchestras, including having been first chair flute for multiple years in different groups. She loves to use her background in music to influence her audio engineering services, especially as she works on making your audio perfect."
1) How did you become interested in pursuing audio as a career?
I originally wanted to have a career as a film composer, and started college with my music degree as my main focus. I thought that getting an audio degree would help me be able to make better quality film music. However, as I went through college, I realized that I enjoyed the recording and editing side of things more than I did composing. Now I've decided to pursue audio editing as my career, though I still get to flex my composition muscles from time to time.
2) On your site, you list that you have two BA’s. That’s amazing! How have your degrees impacted your career path, and do you think school is necessary to work in the audio industry?
I think getting my audio production classes definitely helped me to realize that I wanted audio to be my career. I have found that clients seem interested when I say I have two degrees, but they are typically much more concerned with the skills I'm able to demonstrate. It's common to do skills tests before working with clients, and how I do on the skills test seems to hold a lot more weight than my degrees. While I do think my degrees helped me create a solid practical foundation for my audio work, I also gained a lot of valuable skills through internships and hands on experience. I think it's certainly possible to not go to school to work in the audio industry if you're motivated enough to teach yourself the basics, but I personally greatly benefited from the structure and leadership of my college programs.
3) Has being a composer and musician influenced the way you mix or use sound design? If so, how?
I definitely think it has. I took years of ear training, musicianship, and theory courses. Because of that, I tend to approach my sound design in a similar way as orchestration. I tend to think of sounds as high, mid, or low, and try to make sure I have high, mid, and low sounds in every scene. Composing is similar, where you have high, mid, and low sounding instruments in your orchestra, and are constantly changing which sound is front and center, and what other sounds will offer support.
4) How did you go about starting your business Hemlock Creek Productions? Has anything changed workflow wise with the pandemic?
I started my business when I was an audio freelancer in Washington, DC. The audio scene there isn't very large, so I found myself looking outside of the city for clients. My clients regularly told me that it was extremely convenient to be able to work with someone that edits remotely, especially if they lived in places that were far from any recording studios. I started Hemlock Creek Productions in January 2020 to help meet remote editing needs, and business picked up incredibly quickly because the pandemic had forced a lot of brick and mortar studios to temporarily close their doors.
5) What are some plugins or pieces of gear that you would recommend to someone in post production?
I would absolutely recommend Izotope RX. Because a lot of the voices I edit have been recorded at home, they typically have a lot of background noise that needs to be removed, and RX really helps. I also love the Youlean Loudness Meter as a mastering tool, because it helps you view the exact loudness of your mix in real time. Finally, I would recommend Blue Cat Audio's FreqAnalyst, which is a graphic frequency analyzer. It really helped me when I was first starting out to be able to see the frequency response in my mix, and helped me to get better at EQing.
6) What advice would you give to someone who wants to start working in audio post production?
I have two main pieces of advice- the first is to not be scared of experimenting with new techniques. Some of my favorite sounds I've ever created were made by playing around with some of my gear. Secondly, I would say to explore when you decide to get new gear. The cost of starting to work in audio can be intimidating, but there are so many cheap and free resources that can help you get started.
Keep up with Marisa!
Hemlock Creek Productions website: www.hemlockcreekprod.com.
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